ATSUM: Appointment of existing ADCs chairmen as caretaker belittles Article 371C

The apathy and callousness of the state government has become apparent by taking advantage of the present situation in connivance with Relief department of the state. It is pathetic to say the least.”

All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur ( ATSUM) condemned the state government’s order No. 7/ 1/ 2019- Hills ( ADC / ELECT) pt. dated 17th May 2021, appointing the “existing” chairmen as care taker- chairmen of the Autonomous District Councils ( ADCs). The apex tribal student body of Manipur said in a press statement on Wednesday that ADC is an institution set up under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act 1971 for local self-governance. It further said that appointing care taker chairmen on the recommendation of the State Executive Committee, Relief and Disaster Management Department, is an “insolent action” of the state government to trample upon the rights of the tribal people in Manipur “because as far as Autonomous District Councils are concerned, the state government shall normally act on the recommendation of the Hill Areas Committee”. ATSUM also said, “However, the state government in its own convenient administration of the rule of law issued an order for appointing Ex-Chairmen of ADCs as the care taker- Chairmen of ADCs without seeking opinion/recommendation of HAC”, while adding, “It can be recalled that the Hill Areas Committee had recommended two times for timely conduct of ADCs election”.

ATSUM then said that the term “existing chairmen” is also misleading. It further said that the term of office of all incumbent members of Autonomous District Councils were vacated w.e.f November 30, 2020 by the state cabinet decision taken on November 10, 2020 and subsequently, all the ADC members ceased to occupy the office and their monthly remunerations were also stopped. “Therefore, the use of the term existing chairmen in the matter is doubtful and deceptive,” it added. The tribal student body then said that the “habitual” act of the current dispensation to belittle Article 371C of Indian Constitution pertaining to the Autonomous District Councils tantamount to depriving the “tribal populace” of their basic constitutional rights. The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) which is the constitutional custodian of tribal interest in Manipur should come clean on this, it added.

ATSUM then recalled that the state government and tribal student body had on April 7, 2021, signed an agreement that the state government shall announce the election of the ADCs on or before May 5, 2021, since the term of the preceding ADCs had expired. It pointed out that on the expiry of the stipulated days, the state government conveyed their inability to implement the agreement citing the present pandemic. “However, to the utter disbelief of the organisation, the state cabinet had consented to a naked violation of law by appointing ex-chairmen of ADCs as the caretaker- chairman which nowhere in the ADC Act 1971 permitted it,” it further pointed out. The tribal student body said that appointing care taker in such a situation is nothing less than a provocation. “It is a clear example of the Manipur state government’s perfidy. The apathy and callousness of the state government has become apparent by taking advantage of the present situation in connivance with Relief department of the state. It is pathetic to say the least,” it added.

ATSUM, therefore, reminded the state government to rather explore ways and means for paving ways for “safety conduct of ADC elections” as and when the current COVID-19 situation improves in the state.

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